Q A How to Increase Distance

By Frank ThomasApril 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
Frankly GolfEditor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
Hey Frank,
First off, I enjoy reading your column (Q&A), thanks for the valuable advice. Second, I am a 6 handicap playing with a Cleveland Launcher that is 400 8.5 degrees with an Aldila NV-X shaft. My driving distance is around 255 with an average swing speed of 102 MPH. I do not swing the club fast enough to necessitate an X flex, but it feels much more comfortable than the Stiff shaft (Fujikura Speeder 757) in my previous driver. In order to increase my distance off the tee, which Drivers (degree, shaft flex, etc) do you suggest that I demo. I have a fairly high trajectory and limited roll with an 8.5 so I am unsure where to go from here. Any help would be appreciated. ' Gus

It seems that everybody is chasing more distance and will do almost anything to get it. Distance without accuracy is useless, if the object is to get the ball into the hole from the teeing ground in the fewest number of strokes. If you are only interested in bragging rights then this is a different matter. If so get a long driver (48 inches), tee the ball high and Rip it. Every now and again you will make good contact and will out drive your buddies and be able to talk about it while you are buying them beers at the 19th hole. Now that I have that off my chest lets address your specific question Gus.

To increase your distance you need to have higher ball speed, and/or optimum launch angle and spin rate for your swing speed and/or increase you swing speed by changing swing technique through better timing, increased strength and improved range of motion but this requires some practice and work in the gym.
Assuming the gym thing is not an option then you should be aware that your distance of 255 yards is very good for a swing speed of 102 mph. especially if you are not getting too much roll. You have a very good driver now with a good shaft and, if you are comfortable with the X-flex don't change.
The stiffer shaft will tend to keep the ball flight lower which is one of your concerns but check to see if this is the problem. You should try for a launch angle between 12 and 13 degrees with a spin rate of about 2,500 rpm.
You can lower spin rate by hitting the ball a little higher on the face but this will also tend to increase the launch angle. So if you do decide to move to a slightly larger headed driver with less loft (which I don't normally recommend) make sure you check this using a good launch monitor to get the launch conditions I have recommended.
I personally think that you are in good shape right now with your driver. Work on your fairway and short game and get a good putter and your handicap will drop significantly.
I enjoy both your spot on the Golf Channel as well as your section in Golf Digest regarding equipment. It seems to me though that most viewers or readers throw you a lot of 'lay-ups' or 'puff balls' or your staff hands you questions that don't challenge the status quo.
What I would like to know is in regards to putters, and specifically putters with face inserts. When Len Mattiace won the Dave Pelz putting championship, he was asked about his putter, his stroke, his mental approach and many other attributes of his winning putting style. One of things that stuck me was he said that when he putted he tried to contact the golf ball at its equator with the leading edge of the putter face thereby rolling the ball with over spin. If you look at the putter he was using at the time, the insert never contacted the golf ball. For the putter head to contact the equator of the ball, the leading edge (or the putters lowest point on the face) creates the impact. If Len Mattiace is considered one of the World's best putters and his putting method doesn't use the insert of the putter, why are so many manufacturers using inserts? -- Paul W. Luchau, Littleton, CO

I am always Frank and respond to questions which I believe will be of greatest interest to site visitors, reader and viewers but Frankly never avoid the hard ones, I can assure you.
If you contact the ball at the equator and the putter is traveling horizontally before impact the ball will not start with an over spin but will slide first and then start rolling.
If this contact is made above the center (equator) the forces imparted to the ball will drive it into the ground and it will tend to bounce up after impact. If, however, the ball is struck on the up stroke then it will tend to have less back spin than if the club was traveling horizontally. See the 'Anatomy of a Putt' on my site at www.franklygolf.com/Speak/anatomyofputt.asp.
I do not believe that many professional golfers (even the best putters) hit the ball on the leading edge of the putter face but rather try to hit it on the upstroke. The potential for error in hitting it on the leading edge is too great and therefore is avoided.
Some putters have inserts because the head material is considered too hard and it enhances the feel on these putters but putters are never designed so that contact is made on the leading edge which may be outside the insert perimeter.
Dear Frank,
I heard you speak several years ago when you were with the USGA. I laughed when your opening statement was 'Top Flite is the longest ball.' WHY? You said quote 'because it says so on the box.' I thought it was a great opening to an interesting subject.

You stated on The Golf Channel that you don't think there is much more that can be accomplished from the tech aspect of the golf club. Also, with restrictions being placed by governing bodies, what do you think the manufactures will do to continue to stimulate the customers and the game of golf? I mean how many things can you do to a club head, shaft and ball? ' David Powell

Thanks for the kind comments. It is a fact that advances in technology which contribute to increased distance, such as we have seen over the last ten years, will be hard to come by in the future. The reason for this is that those factors contributing to distance i.e. ball speed, launch angle and ball spin have all reached - or nearly reached - their optimum. This is certainly the case for the pros. The average golfer is still trying to get those optimum conditions which best suit his/her ball speed and this is where we will still see some advances but these will not be half as significant as what we have already seen.
Follow this link http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/spring2.html to get a better understanding as to why there is a limit to distance based on the laws of nature rather than any governing restrictions, unless you swing the club head faster but this you cannot buy in the store. The restrictions the USGA is placing on the manufacturers is to harness the long hitting pro but these are not doing what they anticipate, in fact these are only hurting the average golfer who, on average, only hits the ball 192 yards even though he thinks he hits it 230 yards.
Sorry to burst the bubble but it is always better to live and hope than to not believe in magic.
I have been thinking it's about time to replace my irons. I have Hogan Apex irons that I've played for 6 years now. The first 2 years I was an Asst. Club Pro and practiced quite a bit. The last 4 years, I got my amateur status back, quit practicing, but I do play a lot (175 rounds last year).
I've been thinking that I need to replace my irons simply because of 'wear and tear', feeling that my grooves might be worn to the point that I'm losing some control of the ball (especially out of the rough). I still like my irons very much and am not that excited to spend money on new ones... but I also want to feel like I'm getting the most out of my game. What do you think? -- Kevin Donner, Payette, ID
P.S. I've also thought about sending them to Hogan to be refinished...is that a worthwhile option?

If you really like your Hogan Apex irons and have made good friends of them then don't give them up but get them refinished. I am surprised that they have lasted as long as they have with the amount of golf that you play. There is another option and this is to get another set of blades which are similar to your present set. These don't have to be this year's model in fact blade design technology has not changed much in the last decade or more, so a new set but two or three year old model will work very well and probably a lot less expensive than some of the new sets or to get your old set refinished. Make sure that the dynamic properties of your new set match your existing set i.e. shaft flex, frequency, weight, lie angle etc.
You will still need to practice but there is nothing better than hitting a blade on the sweet spot which most of us only fantasize about.

Dear Frank,
I am 71 and in fairly good condition. I now have a Taylor Made 360 XD driver and hit it quite well. Depending on the course around 200 to 220 yards in the air. I recently had my swing speed checked and my normal speed is 85 mph and when I really go after it I get up to 92 mph. I am using a regular shaft now and wonder if I should be going to an (a shaft) on my next purchase of a driver. I am thinking about either the new Taylor Made 460 r7 or the new Cleveland launcher (Ti 460). I hit the ball so good now and am hardly ever out of the fairway but like every one else I am looking to keep my present distance, as I get older.-- Don Lester

The distance you are getting with this driver the TM 360 XD at your head speed is great and the fact that, 'I HIT THE BALL SO GOOD NOW AND AM HARDLY EVER OUT OF THE FAIRWAY' I would not change a thing. Your distance is better than average for male golfers half your age. Having said this I think you may want to get involved in a strength and flexibility regimen after checking with your doctor. Experiments have shown that a greater range of motion from flexibility exercises and some strength exercises can add from 10 to 15 yards to your drives and this you will not find in a new driver.
The drivers you mention are very good clubs and will help a little if properly matched to your swing speed and I suggest that you stay with the same flex shaft for your swing speed and especially if you intend to do your workouts in the gym.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.